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Nick Hanauer Still Pushing Obama To Expand Overtime Pay

Were the Labor Department instead to narrow these exemptions, millions more Americans would receive the overtime pay they deserve.

You'll remember I wrote about this last month. Well, billionaire Nick Hanauer is serious about the idea, and still pushing it with an article in The Hill, and with a petition you should sign at Daily Kos:

Just think about it: With the stroke of his pen, President Obama could force your employer to pay you time-and-a-half for every hour you work over 40 hours a week. And if corporate America didn’t want to pay you time-and-a-half, they would need to hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers to pick up the slack—slashing the unemployment rate and forcing up wages. That’s 10.4 million middle-class Americans with more money in your pocket or more time to spend with your friends and family.

But the Obama administration could go even further. Many millions of Americans are currently exempt from the overtime rules—teachers, federal employees, doctors, computer professionals, etc.—and corporate leaders are lobbying hard to expand “computer professional” to mean just about anybody who uses a computer. Which is almost everybody. But were the Labor Department instead to narrow these exemptions, millions more Americans would receive the overtime pay they deserve.

So you see, when I say that the overtime threshold is the minimum wage for the middle class, I’m not just playing with words. In the exact same way that the erosion of the federal minimum wage—from an inflation-adjusted peak of about $11 an hour in 1968 to only $7.25 an hour today—has held down wages for low-income Americans, the simultaneous erosion of the overtime threshold has also held down wages for the American middle class. And just like raising the minimum wage would nudge up incomes for those workers earning somewhat above it, restoring the overtime threshold would push up incomes for many workers currently earning above $69,000, too.

Faced with an obstructionist Republican majority in Congress, Obama has already proven his willingness to use what executive powers he has to move the nation forward on immigration. With the Labor Department already in the process of reviewing its outdated overtime rules, the president now has the perfect opportunity to assuage his party’s disgruntled progressive base by striking an equally bold blow on behalf of millions of overworked Americans.

Restore the overtime threshold, Mr. President, and restore the American middle class!

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